At Rifton we talk a lot about heroes. They are the people we meet at schools and hospitals who care for people with multiple – and sometimes overwhelming – disabilities. People like Alicia in the photo at right, a physical therapist at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, who is helping Derrick learn to walk.
But take another look. Something has caught Derrick’s eye. Notice the eagerness in his face. There’s an unlikely hero he’s looking at. His name is Juan.
Juan works as a housekeeper at Elizabeth Seton. But that doesn’t begin to describe what he means to the staff there. They’ve discovered that when children like Derrick start moving uncontrollably nothing calms them down like Juan’s singing. The morning we arrived for a photo shoot Derrick, who can’t speak, was rocking in his chair. Alicia called Juan, and even as he took out his guitar we could see his effect on Derrick. Juan sat down and started to sing. Nothing fancy, but beautiful, with feeling – for an audience of one. To Juan, nobody else in the room mattered. For Derrick, it made all the difference. He calmed down. He could focus on the task at hand, unencumbered by his involuntary movement. And for Derrick, that makes all the difference in his therapy session.
So once again we salute a hero, this one with no clinical title, no recognized therapy role, but in our eyes (and in Derrick’s) as important as any member of the therapy team.
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